"While I am painting, I experience an expanding exhilaration, as if I were on a slope of pure white virgin snow, a shining silver world spreading out before my eyes where no one has skied before. I want to ski across it with complete freedom."
Kazuo Shiraga

A breathtaking symphony of inspired visual lyricism and thrilling gestural force, T53 charts an exhilarating path between anarchy and control, chaos and choreography, the savage and the sublime, and ranks amongst the most searingly magnificent examples of Kazuo Shiraga’s extraordinary foot-painting abstract lexicon. Executed in 1961, at the apex of Shiraga’s critical early period of explosive dynamism, the present work is urgently, gesturally expressive while articulating exquisite poise and grace – displaying the majestic balance between violence and elegance that distinguishes the very best examples of the artist’s revered works. Within the rarified group of early paintings, T53 rises to the fore by reason of its uniquely striking palette: seeping through the austere sublimity of deep black and pristine snow white are deep subtle shades of crimson red, ochre, icy grey and deep green.

Kazuo Shiraga, Chikaisei Shinsanshi, 1961, oil on canvas, Sotheby’s Paris, 21 October 2020, sold for US$3,031,344, 白髮一雄,《地會星神算子》,1961年作,油彩畫布,巴黎蘇富比,2020年10月21日,成交價:3,031,344 美元

The young Gutai master’s legendary feet-generated strokes thrash out a path of primal expression via impassioned collisions of body and paint: like no other artist before him, Shiraga’s performative abstractions are vehemently inspirited with movement—“not just the movement of his body […] but also the assertion of matter itself” (Ming Tiampo, “Not just beauty, but something horrible”, in exh. cat. Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, New York, 2015, pp. 21-22).

Installation view of the present at Osaka, Gutai Pinacotheca, Kazuo Shiraga, November 1962

Shiraga’s momentous ascension to global fame dates back to humble beginnings. Originally trained in nihonga, traditional Japanese painting, the artist soon turned to oil, creating markings or scratchings with his fingers. Beginning with these early methods, Shiraga’s art form manifested as a gradual escalation in the exercise of abjuring the brush—a process of maturation that takes its final form in his celebrated foot paintings. In the early 1950s the artist shunned the orthodox artistic stance completely: fastening a rope to the ceiling, Shiraga swung himself acrobatically across horizontally placed canvases, using his feet and body to cast, heave, kick and swirl thick slabs and layers of paint. Such aggressively uninhibited actions allowed the artist to immerse himself within his canvas as opposed to pouring or painting from above: by merging body with matter in a meteoric cathartic synthesis, Shiraga set himself apart from the mere gesturality of Western Abstract Expressionism and forged an epochal revolutionary oeuvre in the contemporary art canon.

Jackson Pollock, Number 32, 1949, Sotheby's New York: Wednesday, May 16, 2018, sold for US$ 34,098,000 © 2021 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 傑克森・波拉克,《第32號》,1949年作,紐約蘇富比,2018年5月16日(星期三),成交價:34,098,000 美元
Franz Kline, Chief, 1950, oil on canvas © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York © 2021. Digital
image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, 弗朗茲・克萊恩,《Chief》,1950年作,油彩畫布
Franz Kline, Chief, 1950, oil on canvas © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York © 2021. Digital
image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, 弗朗茲・克萊恩,《Chief》,1950年作,油彩畫布

The current lot was created in 1961, a critical year during which Shiraga’s international career took flight. Following French critic Michel Tapié and painter Georges Mathieu’s visit to Osaka in 1957, the Galerie Stadler in Paris (closely associated with Tapié) showed Shiraga’s paintings in a 1959 group show and in 1962 hosted the artist’s first solo exhibition outside Japan. In 1963 Shiraga participated in the "Exposition d’art modern" in Grand Palais, Paris, and in 1965 onwards in historic museum exhibitions such as “Nul” at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1965) and “New Japanese Painting and Sculpture” at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1965) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1967). In 1966 Allan Kaprow’s landmark anthology Assemblages, Environments & Happenings established Gutai as a forerunner of “Happening-type performances”, attributing renewed critical attention and legendary status to Shiraga’s seminal 1955 Challenging Mud performance in which the artist engaged in a violent, grotesque and almost sensual struggle with the earth.

Kazuo Shiraga, Takao, 1959, oil on canvas, Sotheby’s Paris, 6 June 2018, sold for US$10,283,123 *Auction Record for the Artist, 白髮一雄,《Takao》,1959年作,油彩畫布,巴黎蘇富比,2018年6月6日,成交價:10,283,123 美元,為藝術家拍賣紀錄
Kazuo Shiraga, Chitaisei Honkōshin, 1960, oil on canvas, Sotheby's Hong Kong, 9 July 2020, sold for US$3,428,988, 白髮一雄,《地退星翻江蜃》,1960年作,油彩畫布,香港蘇富比,2020年7月9日,成交價:3,428,988 美元

Such violence, embodied in the notion of impassioned struggle, is crucial to a proper understanding of Shiraga’s oeuvre. While Yves Klein also utilized the body as paintbrush in his Anthropometries works half a decade later, Shiraga’s art utilized his irreducible corporeality to battle with and awaken the raw vitality of matter itself. Such an unprecedented paradigm epitomized the mission of the post-war Gutai artists who, literally uniting ‘instrument’ (gu) with ‘body’ (tai), rose fearlessly from the rubble of post-Hiroshima Japan to advocate a reinvigorating philosophy of ‘concreteness’ in their war-torn country. Shiraga once said that his art “needs not just beauty, but something horrible” (Shiraga Kazuo, interview with Ming Tiampo, Ashiya, Japan, 1998); by engaging with, and transcending, violence, Shiraga was able to “wrestl[e] with the demons that haunted him and his generation, at the same time opening the possibility of hope for the years ahead” (Ming Tiampo, “Not just beauty, but something horrible”, in exh. cat. Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, New York, 2015, pp. 21-22).


《T53》引人入勝之處,在於它遊走在各種界線之間——紊亂與克制,混沌與秩序,狂放野蠻與典雅昇華——以獨特的視覺藝術語言及令人興奮的動態力量,組成一首讓人嘆為觀止的交響曲,因此本作在白髮一雄「以足繪畫」的抽象傑作中,堪稱精彩典範。本作創作於1961年,正值畫家充滿爆發力的藝術生涯初期,本作以一氣呵成的動勢筆觸表達各種情緒,並精妙地平衡了暴力與優雅,讓《T53》成為白髮一雄備受推崇的作品之一。在這批稀有的早期作品中,《T53》以獨一無二的攝人色調突圍而出:從深沉的黑色與無瑕的雪白所帶出的莊嚴感中,滲出幽暗低調的赤紅、褐紅、冷灰及墨綠色。這位當時還年輕的具體派(Gutai)大師以雙腳繪畫,激情洋溢地讓身體與顏料碰撞,以這種非同凡響的技法,帶著狂野原始的表達方式,「走」出一條嶄新的道路:白髮一雄的抽象藝術表演充滿激烈狂亂的動作,堪稱前無古人——「不只是身體的動作……物質亦隨之騷動起來」(蔡宇鳴撰,〈不只美,更要可怕〉,《身體與物質:白髮一雄與星野曉的藝術》展覽圖錄,紐約, 2015年,頁21至22)。

Art Dealer Rodolphe Stadler from Paris with Ms. and Mr. Shiraga, 巴黎藝術經紀人 Rodolphe Stadler 與白髮一雄伉儷


《T53》創作於1961年,正值白髮一雄開始踏上國際舞台的重要時刻。在法國藝評家米榭・塔皮耶(Michel Tapié)及畫家喬治・馬修(Georges Mathieu)1957年的大阪之行後,與塔皮耶有著緊密關係的巴黎施泰德畫廊(Galerie Stadler)隨即於1959年一場群展中展出白髮一雄的作品,更在1962年為藝術家舉辦他於日本境外的首場個展。白髮一雄其後於1963年參與巴黎大皇宮的現代藝術博覽會,並於1965年起參與多場極具歷史意義的博物館群展,包括1965年阿姆斯特丹市立博物館的「無」,及1965年三藩市現代藝術博物館和1967年紐約現代藝術博物館的「新日本繪畫及雕塑展」。艾倫・卡普羅(Allan Kaprow)於1966年在他的著名文集《集合藝術、環境藝術及偶發藝術》中,評價具體派(Gutai)為「偶發藝術」的先驅,讓白髮一雄1955年革命性的表演藝術作品《挑戰泥土》——一場藝術家與泥土暴力而怪異的搏鬥——重新受到藝評界的注意,並讓《挑戰泥土》得到傳奇之作的評價。

這種透過激情澎湃的掙扎而體現出來的暴力,是白髮一雄藝術中非常重要的一環。伊夫・克萊因(Yves Klein )五年後亦在他的《人體測量學》中以身體取代畫筆作畫,而白髮一雄則以純粹的身體力量,對抗、喚醒物質內在的生命力。日本戰後具體派的理念在他的作品中得以完全地呈現——他將工具(「具」)與身體(「體」)結合,無懼地走出日本原爆後的頹垣廢墟,在戰火蹂躪過後的日本,宣揚「具體」的新生哲學,希望日本社會能夠重新振興。他曾言,他的藝術「不只要美,更要可怕」(白髮一雄,與蔡宇鳴對談,蘆屋,日本,1998年)。 白髮一雄通過與暴力交戰、並將暴力昇華,從而「與纏繞著他與那一代人的夢魘鬥爭,打開了未來的希望之路」(蔡宇鳴撰,〈不只美,更要可怕〉,《身體與物質:白髮一雄與星野曉的藝術》展覽圖錄,紐約, 2015年,頁21至22)。